We’ve reached 1992 and I’m experiencing something peculiar. We’re about to sit down and watch another Disney classic and I’m feeling… is it optimism? I’m certainly not feeling a strong resistance or the overwhelming dread that I have become accustomed to throughout many of the previous twenty-nine films (this will be film number THIRTY! My, how time flies. Or in this case, drags like a painful death). The truth is that I’ve really enjoyed two of the last three films. Those films were ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘The Rescuers Down Under’ so guess which two I thoroughly enjoyed, and which was a ninety-minute slog of dull misery… Correct! So, it feels like we’ve reached a point where Disney has woken up and righted many of the wrongs that had even left some hardcore Disney fans alienated through the eighties, let alone cynical me. On top of that, they finally seem to have realised that a sense of fun is as important as drawing beautifully and stopped taking themselves quite so seriously. They have even started including humour beyond frolicking fauna. Don’t get me wrong, we still have clumsy escapades involving squirrels, birds and crustaceans but they are accompanied by actual jokes! Finally, they have included soundtracks that from both a musical and entertainment standpoint, have blown away all before.
Aladdin itself fills me with this optimism, mainly because it’s a Disney-Princess film. Ok, so it’s not just a Princess film per se, but it does prominently feature one, and just maybe, by having the male love-interest as the title character, for the first time in a Disney film there may actually be a Prince with a personality! Crazy. So, as I was saying, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m very much a Disney-Princess guy. On average I score a non-Disney-Princess film roughly four out of ten. On average I’ve scored the Princess-films around eight out of ten. That’s pretty conclusive. Is this a common opinion? I’d be interested to know other people’s views on this.
After a bit of backstory from a funny market-stall owner, we meet a bad dude named Jafar. Because this is Disney, Jafar has an animal friend, in this case a parrot named Iago. Jafar wants a treasure from a weird feline-cave-type-thing. Is it a Cave? Is it a Tiger? But that’s the beauty of Disney I guess, in that utterly batshit weird stuff can happen and we just don’t ask too many questions (What were the odds of Pinocchio meeting the world’s only fully dressed fox and cat couple? Don’t ask. Why did Maleficent dedicate sixteen years of her life seeking revenge for not getting a party invite? Shhhh. Why did fourteen-year-old Snow White sound like a strangled sixty-year-old on a trampoline when she sang? You get the picture….). Anyway, the cave is magical as well. It also transpires that this is a particularly discerning feline-cave who only thinks that one person in the whole universe who is the, so-called ”Diamond in the Rough”, and whose “worth lies far within”, and therefore is worthy of entering. Just a hunch, but my money is on Aladdin. Why is he the one-in-seven billion that is so special? Fuck knows. But sorry Gandhi, you are not worthy. Florence Nightingale, in the eyes of this cavity-cum-wildcat, you simply didn’t try hard enough. Aladdin is the chosen one.
Speaking of Aladdin, we are now introduced to him. He’s a “street rat”, which basically is a homeless man who is often involved in nefarious shit. A remarkably clean-cut street rat he is too. Seriously, there’s not a speck of dirt on him or his outfit, which begs the question, how? But after doing the usual cheeky street rat things (like sneaking out of the shadows, stealing bread, singing a song, etc), he shows what a good dude he is by giving it to some hungry orphan kids. What a guy. Because this is Disney, Aladdin has an animal friend, in this case a monkey named Abu. He’s a bit of a bellend.
Finally, we meet Jasmine, who is the princess daughter of The Sultan. By some fucked up law she has less than a week to be wed, but it has to be a to a prince. Unfortunately, all the princes don’t exactly tickle her pickle, so she is rejecting them all, much to her father’s despair. Because this is Disney, Jasmine has an animal friend, in this case a bloody-great tiger named Raja. Also, because this is Disney, Jasmine’s mother is long since deceased. Speaking of which, there’s a very nice line in which The Sultan comments on Jasmine’s constant rejections of potential suitors by claiming “Your Mother wasn’t nearly as fussy!”. Beautiful.
It turns out Jafar is the Sultans assistant. He has a penchant for hypnotising The Sultan with his enchanted snake staff. Fun fact: Offering to hypnotise someone with your enchanted snake staff is also a remarkably ineffective chat-up line. I expect. The power to hypnotise though, is a very powerful tool. So powerful, I wonder why the hell he doesn’t just use it all the time. For example, why doesn’t he just use the snake staff to manipulate Aladdin into the going into the feline-cave instead of the long-winded way he goes about things instead?
I’m not going to proceed into a blow-by-blow account of everything that happens in the film as if you have been cohabiting with me under the rather sizable Disney-free rock I don’t want to spoil every detail of a film, which I would absolutely recommend to all. Instead, I shall share a few musings that I noted during the film:
Firstly, how convenient that Jafar possesses a contraption that can tell him exactly who the ‘Diamond in the Rough’ is! Isn’t that just so fortunate?! I mean, what are the odds that he would be the person to possess such a device? It’s like when in Harry Potter, Harry, Ron and/or Hermione are always the students that happen to be in the right place at the right time to hear vital information from grown-ups that help them solve whatever is puzzling them. It’s the sort of statistically improbable luck that forces you to suspend considerable amounts of disbelief. Furthermore, the device works by turning a cog which turns another cog which turns… basically it ends up shooting lightning into a diamond which shows the relevant information in an hourglass. I think this is not supposed to be questioned any further.
A carpet that walks and is capable of independent thought. Ok then.
Iago calls Jafar “Almighty Evil One”. I feel like a rant about this every few films, but usually bad dudes don’t believe they’re evil. They usually have preconditioned ideals either regarding their own entitlement or their perceived view that a particular person or group of people are less entitled, that then justifies their behaviours. The ‘taking pleasures in being evil’ thing is a bit of a copout, and often is used as a lazy alternative to character depth. I just watched X-Men as research towards a new feature which will be reviewing the Disney Marvel films and was shook to see an antagonist with shades of grey and beliefs that in his mind, justify his actions. This surprise rather beautifully demonstrates what happens when you start living in a Disney-bubble…
Robin Williams is amazing. Robin Williams as the Genie is amazing. The genie is so Robin Williams, that I wouldn’t be surprised if they just said “Robin, just talk and be you, and we’ll draw the animation and write the whole script around whatever pours out of your head”. And let’s be honest, that would probably be the correct thing to do. I’m supposed to watch ‘The Lion King’ next but I think I’m going to have to detour and watch ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ first. And maybe an episode or two of ‘Mork and Mindy’. But not ‘Flubber’ though. ‘Flubber’ can fuck right off.
Along with the legend that is (was *sobs*) Robin Williams, two other things particularly impressed me. Firstly, in the continuation of ‘Operation Disney pulling its proverbial head out of its own backside’, the use of in jokes and nods to its own history is finally taken advantage of, with Easter Eggs littered throughout. I very much appreciate this, as not only does it offer additional chuckles for the observant viewer, it also goes someway to justifying sitting through TWENTY-NINE of their previous sodding full length animated features. Secondly, although I thought Jafar was a decent antagonist and the supporting cast were solid, both Aladdin and Jasmine were outstanding as a Hero and Princess respectively. Its impossible not to fully get behind Aladdin and even his occasionally dickhead-ish simian friend. Jasmine takes the ‘strong-independent-princess-who-don’t-need-no-prince’ traits that were being displayed by first Ariel, and then Belle and turns them up to ten. Not quite eleven, but I’m sure we’ll get there in the future. As great as the two leads were, the Genie is still my favourite character though, not just in Aladdin, but in any Disney film I’ve seen so far. My previous favourite was of course the hilarious and raucous Deems Taylor from Fantasia. No, in seriousness my previous favourite was Tramp, but an honourable mention given here to Baloo, and therefore, by default, Little John who was EXACTLY the same character except brown.
I genuinely loved this film and it’s definitely my favourite Disney animation so far. Not only that, but it means I’ve really enjoyed three of the last four films, which even a few months ago I would have thought unthinkable. The soundtrack was my favourite so far as I loved the Arabian melodies far more than the usual Western ‘Majorist-of-the-Major-Key’ cheese. The story was absorbing, and I never found my attention wavering. If you want to convince your cynical friend or loved-one about the greatness of Disney, I can think of many, MANY worse places to start than this!
9.5/10 – Ben 🙄
Ps. One final thing and this is a spoiler: At the end of the film, The Sultan realises that as he is the Sultan, he makes the laws, and casually mentions that therefore he probably could have changed the law about Princesses having to marry Princes ages ago and, in the process, could have saved a fuck load of hassle. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK. What a twat!
I feel Ben felt very strongly about the Sultan changing the law at the end, didn’t he.
Anyway, oh my god I am elated about how much he enjoyed Aladdin, as the film is unbelievably epic! Yeay! I can’t wait for him to see the live-action now!
Needless to say, I absolutely love this film and it is easily up there in my top five.